Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment

Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate Tech legal shield included in USMCA despite late Pelosi push GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' MORE (D-Calif.) sought Wednesday to prevent the trickle of Democratic impeachment supporters from becoming a wave. 

During an emergency closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement, Pelosi didn't broach the topic directly and instead gave the floor to a handful of committee chairs who back her methodical approach. 

“My message was: stay the course we're on,” Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list Impeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings MORE (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said after the meeting.

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Other lawmakers suggested the caucus remained largely behind Pelosi’s approach, despite the statements in recent days from members backing the beginning of an impeachment inquiry.

“It's clear what her view is, and at the moment I would say the caucus is willing to be led on that issue,” Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyDemocrats debate scope of impeachment charges House Democrats rebuke State Department for 'reversal' on Israeli settlements Maloney wins House Oversight gavel MORE (D-Va.) said of Pelosi. 

Some sharp Trump critics — like Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellHouse panel to consider temporarily repealing SALT deduction cap White House, Democrats edge closer to deal on trade White House, Democrats close to USMCA trade deal: report MORE (D-N.J.), who's been pushing to get the president's tax returns — are on board Pelosi’s approach.

Pascrell spoke out during the closed-door session to note that recent court rulings have sided with the Democrats' requests for information, and more are likely to follow with similar verdicts. 

“At this particular point I think the Speaker is absolutely correct,” Pascrell said. “Richie Neal and his methodical approach I think is absolutely correct,” he added, referring to the Ways and Means Committee chairman. 

Outside the meeting, Pelosi accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE of being involved in a cover-up, a tough rhetorical line that sends a signal to lawmakers that she takes White House stonewalling of congressional investigations seriously.

“We do believe that it is important to follow the facts, we believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi told reporters.

The Speaker then set out for a meeting with Trump and other congressional leaders on infrastructure. The meeting was abruptly ended by Trump, who expressed anger that Democrats were investigating him, and anger specifically at Pelosi over the cover-up remark.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump said in comments from the White House Rose Garden after the abbreviated meeting. He also said he would not work with Democrats on policy until they ended their investigations.

Pelosi’s remarks could also give ammunition to those arguing that it’s time for an impeachment inquiry. 

“There's ample evidence that we should be having this debate in Congress and before the American people,” said Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonDeval Patrick beefs up campaign staff Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Pardoning war crimes dishonors the military MORE (D-Mass.). “His campaign chairman is in prison; don't tell me there's not enough to debate here.”

Pressure on Pelosi to begin impeachment proceedings intensified after former White House counsel Don McGahn disregarded a subpoena and refused to appear before Congress on Tuesday, and after GOP Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGroup of Democrats floating censure of Trump instead of impeachment: report Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump MORE (Mich.) came out in favor of impeachment.

Connolly acknowledged “some discussion” on the recent push to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president. “But that's not where we are this morning,” he added.

The White House stonewalling has sparked a new round of Democratic defectors from Pelosi's no-impeachment position. Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroPelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, is one of them. He described a cordial debate in Wednesday's meeting. 

“Some people have said that they're ready to start an impeachment inquiry — not an impeachment vote, but an impeachment inquiry — and others said they're not quite there yet,” Castro said. “And it was a collegial debate. ... Nobody was screaming at each other.”

Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasLawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation MORE (D-Calif.) is also urging impeachment hearings to begin immediately, arguing it's the surest — and quickest — way for the committees to obtain the information Trump is withholding. 

“We should start the impeachment process. I think it gets us to a place where we can get this information, and then frankly be able to make a determination,” he said.

“By the time the courts decide, I think I'll have grandchildren,” he continued, “and my daughters aren't married."

The other committee heads who spoke during the meeting were Neal and Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerREAD: Articles of impeachment against Trump Trump, White House rip Democrats over impeachment articles GOP lawmaker criticizes Democratic counsel over facial expression: 'Be very careful' MORE (D-N.Y.), of the House Judiciary panel; Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week What are not criteria for impeachment? Fed's top regulator takes heat from both parties MORE (D-Calif.), of the House Financial Services Committee; and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCBS's Major Garrett: Democrats walking away from bribery, extortion allegations against Trump 'in full public view' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — House Dems charge Trump with abuse, obstruction of Congress in impeachment articles Trump, White House rip Democrats over impeachment articles MORE (D-Calif.), of the Intelligence Committee. 

Some Democrats, while not yet advocating for impeachment, say they are moving closer.

“Inch by inch, yard by yard ... with every new point of resistance ... people are saying, 'Hey, we can't just sit here and do nothing,’ ” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “I'm not there, but I'm a lot closer than I was.”